Back in the day, a group of “wild and woolly” artists invaded Long Island City, when nothing much was going on there. Their collective vision ignited a creative movement and jumpstarted a vibrant artistic community.
Gradually, that art scene swept across the borough, transforming its cultural landscape. But even more changes were inevitable.
Fast forward to the present. Five feisty Long Island City-based artists, who have witnessed the area’s transformation, have continued to create and make things work, despite crippling rent hikes and a lack of precious studio space, which in recent years have forced many of their fellow creatives to seek greener, more affordable pastures.
Despite those challenges, all five artists share a positive attitude and agree that Long Island City’s status as an arts destination is alive and well.
As part of that, the LIC Arts Open is back, bringing art and entertainment to everyone. Check out Gallery Nights on Thursday, Nov. 17, and their Fall Open Studios on Saturday, Nov. 19 (see sidebar on Page for more information). While you’re in the hood, you might also want to visit Matted LIC Gallery at 46-36 Vernon Blvd., where the work of those five feisty artists has been gathered together into the Fall 5 LIC Artists Collaborative Show, which is running through Nov. 30.
The artwork at Matted seems a perfect complement to the gifts you’ll find there. So, if you stop by the store to browse and shop for the holidays, you could also purchase an original artwork. Your contribution would really help, with 10 percent of all net proceeds from the exhibit going to LIC-A, a nonprofit arts advocacy enabling the LIC community to share and enjoy the art made there.
The five artists in the show offer a diverse set of opinions on what makes the Long Island City art scene unique.
According to Belgian-born freelance photographer Jean-Marie Guyaux, the art community is more active than it ever was, thanks to the exhibitions sponsored year-round by the LIC Artist Organization (licar
However, he said for most LIC artists, “the challenge is to keep on being able to afford the rent of their studios while facing the fast pace of gentrification of the area.”
Guyaux is currently exploring the domain of New Media Art. His primary subjects are iconic images whose digital content he manipulates via non-photographic software. “My work is primarily computer generated at home,” he said, “while the finishing touches, such as mounting and resin coating, are performed in one of the Reis Building art studios.”
After relocating his studio to Long Island City in 2010, Guyaux joined the LIC-A board, which has monthly meetings where new opportunities for its membership are explored.
“Thanks to my presence on the LIC-A website, I have had the honor to be chosen by The Vanbarton Group to create murals for the lobby entrance and the third floor elevator landing of their newly renovated Zipper Building in LIC,” he noted. (At this time, the Joffrey Ballet School is the Zipper’s main tenant).
Based in New York for over 30 years, Guyaux has created work that runs the gamut from advertising, editorial, fashion and celebrity photography to his own more personal art projects. In recent years, his work has been exhibited in over 30 U.S. galleries, as well as in in several European cities.
For Suzanne Pemberton, who has worked from her own studio in the Reis Studios building on 22nd Street for the past three years after having shared space there, “water and atmosphere” are the central concepts of her work. “My work on view at Matted LIC is a series I worked on this past year called ‘Waterlines,’ which addresses the effect global warming is having on our coastlines,” she said.
Pemberton works in acrylic on canvas, using many thin layers of paint to create her paintings. “The many layers give the effect of sea and air,” she said, “and the linear markings suggest rising tidelines.”
Because of groups like LIC Artists, Pemberton believes there is much more awareness of just how strong the Long Island City artist community is.
“We all hope there will be affordable studio space going forward. Juvenal Reis has committed to keeping artists’ space in my building. But the incredible development going on in the area is pretty frightening,” she said.
Indiana native Janya Barlow, who grew up in a family where music and art were commonplace, realized early on that painting was her path in life. After getting her BFA, she moved to New York, studying at The Art Students League. She has shown her work in galleries and museums in the US and abroad.
“I have been a working artist involved with LIC artists and exhibiting at PaintCan Studios 2 in LIC for many years. I continue to take part in the exhibition activities in LIC and know the artist community from these local events,” she said.
The works Barlow is exhibiting at Matted LIC are based on a linguistic approach. “The imagery created in these paintings is based on an emotional and linguistic nurturing that exists between the creator and the work,” she explained. “This nurturing is similar to a parent teaching a child the knowledge and language necessary for them to communicate. When strokes are put down on the canvas, each and every stroke is a word or visual energy that can be read.”
According to Alice Lipping, another Matted LIC collaborative artist, her biggest challenge is to get people to events and the Open Studios during the upcoming festival.
The problem is that she and the group of artists she shares a space with at Studio 34 on 38th Ave. are off the beaten path. So, it’s difficult to drive traffic over there. “The public doesn’t know where we are, so it’s hard to get visitors during these events,” said Lipping, who has become more active in LIC’s arts community by being part of shows for the LIC Arts Open Fest and LICA (LIC Artists). She has also helped curate shows in the Studio 34 gallery space and has exhibited in many group shows in galleries and alternative spaces throughout Astoria, LIC, and Manhattan.
“We try to get people together through meetings to brainstorm ideas of how to make people more aware of the LIC arts community.”
Lipping has exhibited in many group shows in galleries and alternative spaces throughout Astoria, LIC, and Manhattan.
The Astoria resident will be participating in a few Holiday Markets, selling smaller works and hand-painted Christmas Ornaments: Austin’s Ale House, Kew Gardens, Nov. 12; Astoria Market at The Bohemia Beer Garden, Dec. 4 and 11; the Sweet Afton Holiday Market, Astoria, Dec. 18.
Fellow artist Nancy Olivier moved to LIC in 1994. Her first studio was at IS 1, three blocks from where she lived on 47th Avenue. Currently, she has a space at Reis Studios, and lives on 47th Road and Vernon Boulevard.
Olivier said she is thrilled that the LIC arts community is growing. “We were very isolated out here in 1994, and that has changed for the better (although the subways and neighborhood are becoming more crowded).”
However, she agrees with many in her community, that the biggest challenge is keeping studio space affordable and available.
Her work at Matted is from her latest series of Stripe Paintings. “The ‘Stripe Series’ originated in work I made in 1999, and I have picked up that thread again in recent years,” she said.
“I want to stay connected to the arts community out here, but I don’t always have time to do that. LIC Open Studios is a great way to keep in touch,”
©2016 Community News Group
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